In January of 2018, Jonah Gadjovich was on top of the world—having just won a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Hockey Championships in Buffalo.
A year later, Gadjovich was a regular healthy scratch struggling to crack double-digits in his rookie pro season for the Utica Comets.
Though Gadjovich’s 2018/19 was a major comedown from his golden Draft+1 year, it’s not the end of the road for the Vancouver Canucks’ 55th overall selection in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Nor is it the end of Gadjovich’s status as a prospect with legitimate big league potential—though it did cost him a couple of spots in our Preseason Prospect Rankings, where he slots in at #14.
Despite his 10-point AHL debut, Gadjovich—who will turn 21 as the 2019/20 season begins—still possesses all of the traits that made him a worthy selection for both Team Canada and the second round of the draft, and that means he still has a path to the NHL ahead of him.
It just might be a bit steeper of a climb than the Canucks initially anticipated.
In keeping with past lists, we’re considering a prospect to be any player who is 25 years of age or younger and who has played less than 25 regular season games at the NHL level. This is a slightly modified and simplified version of the qualifications for the Calder Trophy.
As of the 2018/19 season, both Elias Pettersson and Adam Gaudette have graduated from prospect status.
By The Numbers
|Owen Sound/ OHL||2017/18||42||25||23||48||42||8|
There’s not all that much to be said about Jonah Gadjovich’s 2018/19 statline that isn’t self-evident. After two greater-than-point-per-game seasons in the OHL, Gadjovich paced for less than 20 points as a rookie pro—and was a healthy scratch almost as often as not.
One number of note is Gadjovich’s penalty total, as his four fights—including an absolute doozy with Morgan Adams-Moisan of the Laval Rocket—accounted for 20 of his 32 PIMs. That demonstrates some impressive discipline from a 6’2”, 210-pound power forward—especially considering that Gadjovich still maintained a frequent physical presence.
The column that everyone is going to pay attention to, however, is Games Played—and while there were some whispers that Gadjovich may have spent a portion of the year playing injured, he was listed as a healthy scratch more than three dozen times throughout the season.
To be entirely fair, Gadjovich did receive some opportunity on the powerplay when in the lineup, but he ultimately spent so much time in the pressbox that coach Trent Cull’s apparent lack of trust in him became a point of controversy amongst the Canucks fanbase—especially after fellow prospect Petrus Palmu returned to Finland due to similar issues with icetime.
It’s tough to blame the entirety of Gadjovich’s struggles on Cull. Gadjovich may have received a limited role, but he also didn’t produce enough for a player in any role—certainly not one who hopes to make it to the NHL in the near future.
With that said, no one should be surprised that Gadjovich’s fancy stats took a plunge in 2018/19.
Jeremy Davis’ Prospect Graduation Probabilities System—or pGPS for short—is a similarity-based program that seeks to analyze players’ statistical outputs across various leagues and age groups, with the ultimate goal of categorizing those players into cohorts alongside previous prospects in order to predict their likelihood of eventual success.
Davis’ system has grown since its inception, and now encompasses up to nine statistical inputs—including a player’s size, era-adjusted projection, and point share—to spit out percentage-based odds on an individual’s likelihood of success, and their likely degree of success, at the NHL level.
Gadjovich’s development curve—as represented by Davis’ Year-to-Year pGPS Chart—looks almost exactly like one would expect, cresting in 2018 and crashing the next year. His chances of playing a scoring role for the Canucks have thus suffered greatly, but Gadjovich’s narrative has always been that of an individual more suited for a bottom-six job in the NHL—and he’s still tracking well enough for that.
The numbers say at his current rate of development he has about a one-in-five chance of making it to the NHL eventually—just slightly worse odds than that of any given second-rounder when drafted. In other words, the full story of Jonah Gadjovich has yet to be told.
By the time GM Jim Benning selected Jonah Gadjovich with the 55th overall selection in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the left wing—who had the appearance of an NHL veteran even as a teenager in the OHL—had already played three full seasons with the Owen Sound Attack.
After two fairly nondescript years as a 16- and 17-year-old—33 total points in 126 games—Gadjovich busted out in his draft season with 46 goals and 74 points in 60 games. Unfortunately, he suffered and played through a wrist injury as Owen Sound went deep in the OHL playoffs—resulting in just seven points across 17 postseason games. The injury would go on to cost Gadjovich time the following season, but it didn’t stop the Vancouver Canucks from picking him in the second round.
Gadjovich’s injury-shortened 2017/18 season also featured a plateau in production—48 points in 42 games—but a greater commitment to two-way play. That, along with Gadjovich’s natural athletic attributes, attracted the attention of Canada’s World Junior brass—and he played an important depth role in Buffalo with three points in seven games for the gold medal-winning Canadians.
That Gadjovich is the possessor of perhaps the most intimidating profile picture on all of EliteProspects might not seem like an important scouting note, but it’s actually quite indicative of what he brings to the table.
In junior hockey, Gadjovich was a man amongst boys—and that informed his development as a classic power forward. A bit of a throwback to a simpler era, Gadjovich comes with the trademark attributes of a talented bruiser—physical, strong on the puck, and able to manoeuvre to the net with ease to facilitate frequent high-percentage shots on net.
Gadjovich makes his money in the slot and right in front of the net—and that’s a skillset that will never go out of style.
Fighting is something that is going out of style in the modern NHL—but it’s not gone completely, and it’s also an area in which Gadjovich excels. He’s an Ed Jovanovski-style knucklechucker who managed to impose and intimidate on a regular basis despite his age and the step up from junior to the pros. He may not have landed hits at the same rate with the Comets that he did in the OHL, but there’s another reason for that.
The power forward profile fits for better or for worse, and that means that Gadjovich also suffers from the stereotypical shortcoming of the role—namely, skating.
Though Gadjovich’s improvement across his OHL career had much to do with an increase in skating ability, he’s still not the fleetest of foot—something that has made it hard for Gadjovich to keep up at the professional level. Acceleration remains a key issue. When it comes to motion, Gadjovich’s strength appears to be lateral movement—yet another calling card of the classic power forward—which helps him to muscle toward the slot.
Of course, it also bears mentioning that Gadjovich carries an inordinate amount of physical force when he reaches his top speed—even if he rarely gets there—and that’s a lot for opponents to handle. Without continued additions to his raw footspeed, however, he’ll have a tough time advancing beyond his current position on the organizational depth chart.
These eye test-y assertions are more or less backed up by Gadjovich’s place on Davis’ pGPS cohort map:
There have been plenty of players who fit Gadjovich’s statistical profile and went on to have success at the NHL level—but it’s a veritable “who’s who” of bangers and crashers. Names like Clutterbuck, Sestito, and Weise populate Gadjovich’s cohort map—and it’s hard to believe that Gadjovich isn’t destined for a similar gig at the NHL level. His physical attributes and playstyle already make him a fit for a spot on an energy line—but as the spread of players on his cohort map shows, there’s potential for him to be a checking winger or one of those fabled “elite fourth liners.”
With enough improvement to his acceleration, it’s feasible that Gadjovich could climb even higher than that—but as the Tier Chart demonstrates, the odds aren’t fantastic.
Whether one sees Gadjovich’s rating under the pGPS system as a positive or a negative is a matter of perspective. On the one hand, any dreams of Gadjovich turning into a Todd Bertuzzi-lite are probably toast after Draft+1 and Draft+2 seasons without significant growth—but that was always a longshot outcome for a late second rounder.
More optimistically speaking, Gadjovich plays one of the few roles in which a player can plateau offensively and still develop into a legitimate NHL player—and Davis’ charts reflect that possibility.
There’s no doubt that Gadjovich needs to take some major steps forward—literally and figuratively speaking—to further his future with the Vancouver Canucks, starting as soon as next season. He’ll need to further adjust to the increased speed of the pro game, continue to develop his skating, learn to play with consistent physicality, and ultimately produce more points—but first of all, he’ll have to convince Trent Cull to pencil him in to a regular spot in the lineup.
From there, it’s all a matter of building momentum.